In the 1930's, a First World War flying ace named Roger Schumann is reduced to making appearances on the crash-and-burn circuit of stunt aerobatics. His family are forced to live like dogs while Shumann pursues his only true love, the airplane. When Burke Devlin, a reporter, shows up on the scene to do a "whatever happened to" story on Shumann, he is repulsed by the war hero's diminished circumstances and, conversely, drawn to his stunning wife, LaVerne.Written by
When Laverne does her parachute jump, she is seen in close shots hanging by her arms from a trapeze-style bar. However in the longer shots, she is seen to be in a normal parachute harness as she lands. See more »
Great for me to see this rarely-scheduled Douglas Sirk melodrama from his rich, late 50's period and it didn't disappoint. Taking as its subject the uncommon lifestyles of the participants in the popular flying-circus entertainments of the 20's and 30's, it's not long before the familiar Sirk themes of conflicting passions, human weakness and sacrifice raise their heads above the parapet.
For some reason shot in black and white, perhaps to better enhance the period setting, I still firmly believe that all Sirk's work should be seen in glorious colour, no one filled these CinemaScope screens better than he in the affluent 50's. Only just lasting 90 minutes, it crams a lot into its time-frame, drawing convincing character-sketches of the lead parties, Rock Hudson's maverick journalist, generous of spirit and loquacious but seeking love in the person of the beautiful, sexy Dorothy Malone parachutist extraordinaire, she frustrated by the lack of attention she and her son get from her obsessive pilot husband Robert Stack, who'd rather fly above the clouds than engage with earth-dwellers. Throw in his grease-monkey Jack Carson who may have had a fling with Malone in the past and hangs around as much for the scraps she throws him as his duty to Stack and a Mr Big aircraft-owner with designs of his own on Malone and you have an eternal quadrangle ripe for tragedy.
Sure enough, it happens along and spectacularly too, straightening out the lives of the survivors, even if not, I suspect for the better. The acting is first rate, Hudson again showing the depth that Sirk always seemed to draw out of him, handling long-speeches and a drunken scene with ease. Stack again displays his facility for acting against type, playing another emotionally stunted individual masquerading behind his good looks and bravura outlook. Malone however is the epicentre of the movie, the action revolves all around her and it's no wonder with her sexiness and sense of vulnerability, a killer combination for the menfolk here.
Sirk's direction is excellent, juxtaposing thrilling action sequences in the air with oddly contrasting backgrounds - it's no coincidence that the drama is played out in New Orleans at Mardi-Gras time, with the use of masks often showing up in foreground and background as a metaphor for the concealed passions on display here. There are several memorable scenes, like when Hudson and Malone's first illicit kiss is disturbed jarringly by a masked party-goer and Stack's adoring son trapped on a fairground airplane-ride just as his father loses control of his real-life plane.
So there you have it, another engrossing examination of fallible individuals, expertly purveyed by the best Hollywood director of drama in the 50's. Not as soap-sudsy as some of Sirk's other movies of the period, perhaps due to the literary source of the story, but engrossing from take-off to landing.
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